News & Info for NYS Council Members: 9/19/23

September 19, 2023

Good morning,

The next meeting of the NYS InterAgency Opioid Overdose Prevention Task Force will take place on September 27, 2023 from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm with an option for the public to provide public comments at the event and by using this email address:

Joan & Alan Bernikow
JCC of Staten Island 
Social Hall

1466 Manor Road
Staten Island, NY 10314

And, here’s information from the first meeting of this Task Force on September 15, 2023:

Meeting Agenda

Watch Meeting

And, the next meeting of the Opioid Settlement Fund Advisory Board is coming up next week on September 26 from 1-3 in Albany.  You can watch the meeting live here:

Watch Live


Here’s a blurb from Politico that I stumbled over last week.  I am still searching for the Survey Results document (mentioned below):

It’s no secret the Covid pandemic exacerbated health care workforce shortages in New York and beyond.

Now, the results of a 2022 survey by the state Office of Mental Health show in greater detail what the state’s mental health clinics are facing.

The findings, which were presented Monday to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Community Services Board, reflect all of New York’s 438 mental health clinics that are licensed under Article 31 and were operating at the time of the survey.

The vast majority of clinics statewide reported one or more vacant therapist positions, while 43 percent of clinics reported one or more vacancies for prescribers, such as physicians and nurse practitioners.

The survey also found only a quarter of clinics offered peer services last year; the rate was even lower in New York City, where just 23 percent of clinics did.

All told, 41 percent of the peer staff roles at Article 31-licensed clinics were vacant last year.

To fill all those vacancies, Article 31 clinics need roughly 1,200 therapists, 300 prescribers and 112 peer workers combined.

State mental health officials told the board they expect to see a big jump in the peer workforce in the office’s 2023 survey due to new regulations enabling clinics to bill for their services.

The 2023 workforce survey is under development and will be sent out in October.


Last year, the state agencies released a Report regarding health plan compliance with the Mental Health Parity Equity and Addiction Act (MHPEA), fyi.  See attached Report and article below:

(Politico, 9/18) MENTAL HEALTH PARITY PUSH — The Biden administration is prepared to go after health insurers it says don’t follow the law mandating them to treat mental health care in the same way they do physical health care, Ben reports. And the White House is talking tough.

The administration has proposed new rules it says will make insurers comply and threatens hefty fines if they don’t. Insurers are pleading innocent and, backed by some of America’s biggest companies, claiming the Biden plan could make an intractable problem worse.

“We hope insurers will change their behavior going forward without the sticks, but we will continue to fully enforce the parity law,” Neera Tanden, head of President Joe Biden’s domestic policy council, told POLITICO.

The administration says those ploys include requirements that doctors seek insurers’ approval before delivering mental health care, lower reimbursement rates for providers who treat mental illness and deliberate efforts to limit the number of in-network physicians available to patients.

The history: The U.S. healthcare system historically treated mental and physical health care differently. Insurers didn’t typically cover mental health care until after World War II. John F. Kennedy was the first president to try to address parity in 1961, and both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush signed legislation with the aim of requiring insurers to treat mental and physical health equally.

What’s different: The Biden administration’s proposal substantially expands the law Bush signed. It would mandate that insurers analyze the outcomes of their coverage to ensure there’s equivalent access to mental health care and take action to comply if they’re falling short.

Insurers respond: AHIP, the lobbying group for insurers, says the situation is more complicated than Biden makes out and workforce shortages are behind barriers to access.

“For years, health insurance providers have implemented programs and strategies to expand networks and increase access,” AHIP spokesperson Kristine Grow said in a statement.

The administration has set a deadline for comments on its proposed rules for early October; insurers and their allies are asking for more time to respond.

The ERISA Industry Committee, which represents large employers’ benefit interests, joined AHIP, among other associations, employers and health plans, in writing to administration officials to ask that the comment period on the proposed rules be extended. They warned that the rules could create “unnecessary burdens” for providers, insurers and patients and “unintentionally” impede access to care.


Commentary: High-needs children are still falling through the cracks of mental health system

There are not nearly enough residential treatment beds for children who cannot safely be cared for at home.

Andrew Hevesi and Kathleen Brady-Stepien. Albany Times Union Guest Editorial

Sep. 19, 2023

The state’s recent historic investments in mental health care are laudable. However, there remains a need for deeper, more targeted investments to serve children with the most significant behavioral health needs.

New York has led the nation in child welfare reform by dramatically reducing the use of out-of-home care in the last 30 years. The state’s support of preventive services has had a real impact on the lives of countless young people, helping them thrive with community-based services. Preventing out-of-home care and keeping kids in their homes and communities is preferable whenever possible, and is far more fiscally prudent.

But what about the kids who need care well beyond what can be offered in the home environment? The savings from the tremendous reductions in out-of-home care have not been reinvested in quality children’s services. And the result is that more than half of New York’s residential treatment beds for children with significant mental health challenges have been shut down. In 2012, there were 554 beds. In 2022, there were only 274.

The lack of appropriate placement options has led providers of residential treatment centers to accept children whose needs far exceed the care these programs are designed and licensed to deliver. The consequences are severe: Nonprofit residential treatment providers are seeing increasing levels of violence on residential campuses and in surrounding communities, along with a rise in the number of young people engaging in self-harm and attempting suicide. What’s more, these inappropriate placements divert resources away from children appropriately placed at the centers. Providers are experiencing these crisis levels across the country.

New York’s young people need comprehensive solutions.

We should identify and create placements for the small number of critically ill children whose complex mental health needs cannot be adequately addressed in a residential treatment center.  This will keep all children safe with appropriate care in appropriate settings. Meanwhile, state-set foster care rates must be adjusted to account for the significant provider expenses incurred for providing care to higher-acuity youth. Capital funding from the Office of Mental Health must be used to strengthen residential treatment centers’ capacity. 

Longer term, New York needs to approve and invest in “intensive services models,” which would give providers the additional tools and resources to let them appropriately care for higher-acuity youth.

Finally, the state must invest in the child welfare and children’s behavioral health workforce. All programs are experiencing immense challenges with hiring and retaining staff due to chronically low wages set by government contracts. 

New York urgently needs to boost its continuum of care with enough placement options for children with the greatest levels of need. The children and youth served, and our communities, deserve better.

Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi, D-Queens, represents the 28th Assembly District. Kathleen Brady-Stepien is president and CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies, representing the state’s child welfare nonprofit organizations.


Politico, 9/18 – Mental health services are increasingly accessible and serving a greater number of New Yorkers — at least, according to the 2023 Mayor’s Management Report, which City Hall released Friday.

NYC Well, the city’s mental health crisis hotline, provided callers with over 422,000 supportive connections during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

That’s up by 7 percent since the prior fiscal year.

Nearly 5,300 people received services from long-term mobile treatment providers, compared to just under 5,000 the year before, thanks to the deployment of new Assertive Community Treatment teams.

The city’s stock of supportive housing grew to 11,400 units in the 2023 fiscal year, up from 10,600 in the 2022 fiscal year.

The report also touts increases in the number of children who received early intervention services and the number of referrals to co-response teams, a collaboration between NYPD and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

For older adults, NYC Aging’s Geriatric Mental Health Initiative served 861 people at Older Adult Centers during the fiscal year, an increase from the previous year’s 781.